Paw Protection 101: Protect Your Dogs’ Paws During MN Winter
In the summer we say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” (even when sometimes it’s the heat). In the winter, as far as your dog’s feet are concerned, it’s not the snow, it’s the salt (even though sometimes it’s the snow).
Dogs’ toe pads are a simple layer of leathery skin over a thin fat pad. It’s not great protection against cold and snowy conditions. Some dogs are prone to painful snowballs between their toes, some get “frozen foot” and will refuse to put a foot down if it is hurting from the cold. Don’t forget that dogs will end up swallowing any chemicals they’ve walked through when they lick their feet.
There are two ways to protect your dog’s feet: boots and barriers. Boots are made of cloth and cover the dog’s foot, usually held on with a Velcro strap around the leg. You can find them as simple loose-fitting felt boots or as technical as a shoe fitted to your dog’s feet with grippers on the sole, reflective straps, and a 2-point connection system. Whichever variety you choose, be sure the Velcro strap is tight when you put it on your dog. Every two blocks or so, look down and count shoes. If one’s come off, it’s easy to back-track and find it.
There are also rubber foot coverings that essentially look like a balloon, too. They slip over a dog’s foot and the opening grips the dog’s leg to provide a baggy but waterproof fit. Most dogs are not fans of having boots on. Take them out for a nice walk as soon as the boots are on. It’ll help them acclimate and associate the boots with fun walks. Boots are available in most dog-related stores, as well as larger stores that carry animal products, such as Fleet Farm.
If boots are too much, try rubbing a paw protector into the pads. The best-known is Musher’s Secret. It’s a dense barrier wax that’s breathable and easy to apply. It blocks snow and ice buildup as well as chemical contact, and most dogs tolerate it well. It may not be as effective as boots when it comes to the most severe conditions, but if your dog is not having it with the boots, give the barrier a try and see how it goes.
Boots and foot coverings come in a lot of styles and colors. Pad waxes might work if your dog will not accept the boots.
It’s a rare dog who doesn’t love snow and a walk. Invest in some gear, try a few options and figure out what works best for both of you. Be patient while you and your dog learn, and get out there. There isn’t much in life that’s better than a happy dog in the snow.
Written by Ann Warren of Blue Box Word Service, LLC.
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